Reflection on The Incarnate Word

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1:1-5 NRSV).

Words have a lot more power than we think. One word can carry any variety of meanings. Think of how little it takes for a word to change our moods, perspectives, and outlook.

The Psalmist in Psalm 139:3 wrote, “Indeed, there is not a word on my lips, but, you, O Lord, know it altogether.” ( The Book of Common Prayer, p.794).

The Nativity of Jesus Christ is the story of the Word that was with God and was God. Jesus is God’s Word spoken and made one with us in the Incarnate Word. Jesus has come as one like us, to tell us and show us how deep the love of God is for all of us. In Jesus, God comes to bring the Word into our hearts so that we can “incline the ears of our hearts” to hear and respond to God’s desire for us.

Notice that Jesus arrived as a vulnerable Child. There was no room for Mary and Joseph in the inn. The Manger was the closest place a available. It was hardly a sterilized space. It was far from the ideal situation. Yet, God did something extraordinary there. God used what was right there at that moment, to transform the Manger and the world for all time; by being born as a helpless Child with countless possibilities before Him.

This Mysticism that is brought to our contemplative prayer this Christmas Season, is the wonder of God entering our troubled and imperfect world. God comes to us as we are and where we are to bring God’s transforming Grace. Jesus comes to save us from our certitude; so that we can listen, pray and allow ourselves to move and grow with God’s Incarnate Word to help us to continue the story that we thought was finished. The God-Life Jesus brings us can be discerned with Mary who “ponders these things in her heart.” (See Luke 2:19). It is in the heart that we can lean from Jesus, about how to grow closer to God. We need God’s help. That is why Jesus Christ was born of Mary. Jesus is the light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not (and will not) overcome that light.

What is Jesus, The Incarnate Word saying to your heart today?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

A very Merry and Holy Christmas to all of you.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on Contemplative Rejoicing

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7 NRSV).

It is human nature to rejoice because things turn out as we had hoped for. When something happens that makes us happy, rejoicing is easy. We all have those things that we rejoice about. Yet, our understanding of what it means to rejoice always, and worry about nothing to find God’s peace is limited because of our false-sense of self.

Before I continue, I want to give a strong word of advice to pastors and spiritual directors. I live with autism that includes generalized anxiety disorder. There is nothing more harmful to people with anxiety disorders than to hear a pastor or spiritual director use another translation of this reading from Philippians that reads, “Do not be anxious about anything….”. Please do not do it. Anxiety disorders are not the fault of those who have them, and it is simply not possible to just not be anxious.

So what might part of this Reading by St. Paul about rejoicing and not worrying say about contemplation and mysticism? I suggest that one possibility is to meditate on what Paul tells us about being thankful and that it is the peace of God which surpasses all understanding that will guard our hearts and lives in Christ Jesus. It is God’s peace that is guarding us. When we let go, even when our lives seem to be falling apart, that peace that surpasses our understanding is still at work in our hearts. Just because we might not feel God’s peace, does not mean that God has given up. Most likely God’s peace is at work in us long before we are aware of it. Because God gave us that desire for God, so that we can respond to God’s desire within our own desire.

God’s peace that is at work in our anxiety, prayers, petitions. The mystery of God’s extravagant love and compassion are never out of our reach. God’s peace is speaking and calling us in the Holy Spirit. That is something to rejoice about always.

“How much more important is it to lay our petitions before the Lord God of all things with the utmost humility and devotion.” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.48).

What does rejoicing always mean for you?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

If you feel led to buy me some coffee to help support this ministry, please scroll down to the bottom of the right sidebar and click on the Benedictine Coffee Mug. Thank you so very much.

Reflection on God’s Will

I want to do your will, my God. Your instruction is deep within me. (Psalm 40:8 The Common English Bible).

[Abba Nelius] said, “Do not be always wanting everything to turn out as you think it should, but as God pleases, then you will be undisturbed and thankful in prayer. (Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings, Annotated and Explained, by Christine Valters Paintner, p.61).

How do we actually know what God’s will is? It is easy to read a particular passage of Scripture, interpret it and from there decide what God’s will is. Does that mean we really know what God’s will is?

God’s will is as much a mystery as any other aspect of God’s movement in our lives. The vastness of space, the depths of the oceans of the world, the strength of the mountains all sing to our God. Yet, nothing is so big, so indestructible that prevents God from being so madly in love with each of us, so as to want us to love God back.

To want to do God’s will means letting go of the assumption that we understand what God wants of us from our own perspective. Contemplative Prayer is the work of the Holy Spirit that allows us to just be with God, and to want nothing more than God for the sake of God alone. God has already planted God’s will and instruction deep within us, in our desire for the God who desires us. God sees with us the person that God loves and has redeemed in Jesus the Christ.

During this season of Advent, we are watching and waiting to celebrate the mystery beyond all human logic. God saw God’s goodness in all of humankind, and came to us as one of us in the Incarnate Word. God’s will has been given to us, to “listen and incline the ear of the heart.” God’s will is not found in beating ourselves up for what we have not done, or should have done. God’s will is in the truth of God in and through the life of Jesus, that brings us to the eternal truth about who we are in God’s heart.

“Do not be daunted immediately by fear and run away from the road that leads to salvation. It is bound to be narrow at the outset. But, as we progress in this life and faith, we shall run the way of God’s commandments, our hearts overflowing with 5e inexpressible delight of love” (RB 1989: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.19).

What does wanting to do God’s will mean for you?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

If you feel led to buy me some coffee to help me support this ministry, please scroll down to the bottom of the right sidebar and click on the Benedictine Coffee Mug. Thank you so very much.

Reflection on A Contemplative Advent

Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; in you have I trusted all the day long. Remember, O Lord, your compassion and love, for they are from everlasting. (Psalm 25:4-5, The Book of Common Prayer, p.614).

Among my many social challenges I experience because of autism is knowing when, who and how to ask for help. It happens because of being overwhelmed by too many options in my brain at one time. Over the past seven years since I was first diagnosed, I have had to learn that the sooner I tell those closest to me that I am overwhelmed by my options and need help, the less overwhelmed I will be. I will get the help I need, when I accept my vulnerability and entrust what I need from the right people.

Advent is a season of waiting and watching for God in the Person of Jesus. We look forward to the return of Christ in glory. We want Jesus to come and change this world of violence and chaos to how we think things should be. The season of Advent leads us to remembering that God did something so profound in the Incarnation. In the book Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas, one of the contributors Karl Rahner in The Divine Dawning wrote,

“No, you took upon yourself our kind of life, just as it is. You let it slip away from you, just as ours vanishes from us. You held on to it carefully, so that not a single drop of its torments would be spilled. You hoarded its very fleeting moment, so you could suffer through it all, right to the bitter end” (p.71,72).

If we want a contemplative experience of Advent, we must “begin again.” We begin by praying with the Psalmist that by ourselves, we do not know how to find God’s truth and know God’s compassion. The contemplative looks for the mystery of God in our humility and vulnerability as life is in the here and now. In our suffering and messy lives the Advent of Christ is already happening. When we let go, and allow God to teach us the way of truth, salvation and compassion; the Holy One comes and makes a home within us. It is a very limited experience, and so we continue to cry; Come, Lord Jesus, Come.

“Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may he bring us all together to everlasting life.” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, Chapter 72, p.95).

What are you waiting for Jesus to do for you this Advent?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

If you feel led to buy me some coffee to help support this ministry, please scroll down to the bottom of the right sidebar and click on the Benedictine Coffee Mug. Thank you so very much.

Reflection on The Merciful Kingdom

“Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom; your dominion endures throughout all ages. The Lord is faithful in all his words, and merciful in all his deeds. The Lord upholds all those who fall; he lifts up those who are bowed down.” (Psalm 145:13-15 The Book of Common Prayer, p. 802).

Contemplative Prayer and Mysticism is so countercultural. Contemplation defies explanations and descriptions. We can read from the many authors on the subject of contemplative prayer and mysticism, but, we will still fall short of an adequate conversation that comes close to how awesome the experience is. I suggest that the fundamental reason is that contemplation is on the basis of faith. We know that God is present in the here and now. The kingdom is here and now. Yet, God’s mercy is our “evidence.”

Lectio Divina (The prayerful Reading of Scripture) involves the four steps of Lectio (Reading), Meditatio (meditation), Ora (prayer) and Contemplatio (Contemplation). It begins with reading from God’s word, and leads us into a greater experience of The Word. It is the kingdom of Christ that is always and forever coming to give us God’s mercy, and lift us up when we are bowed down.

The everlasting kingdom of Christ is present as we turn to Chapter 7 On Humility in The Rule of St. Benedict where we are told that “The first step of humility then, is to keep the reverence of God before you at all times, and never forget it.” When we turn to God for strength in hard times to seek union with God, we discover that God is what we truly desire. What we are searching for is in the here and now, but, it is only a window to enter more fully into the presence of God who loves us beyond our wildest expectations.

Where are you looking for God’s everlasting kingdom in your life?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

If you feel led to buy me some coffee to help support this ministry, please scroll down to the bottom of the right sidebar and click on the Benedictine Coffee Mug. Thank you so very much.

Reflection on Possessions

Then Jesus called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:38-44 NRSV).

In a Benedictine community, the notion that we “own” anything is unacceptable. In The Rule of St. Benedict, he charges the monastery cellarer to “regard all utensils and goods of the monastery as sacred vessels of the altar” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.55). Later in Chapter 33, on Monks and Private Ownership, Benedict quotes from Acts 4:32 writing “All things should be the common possession of all” (p.56). Things and people in a Benedictine community are on loan and not ends in themselves.

We live in a society of consumerism on steroids. The holiday shopping commercials are already in full swing. The better the gift, the less expensive the deal, the more stuff accumulated and the more stuff possesses us. Our false-sense of self becomes more inflated, thinking our security is found in what we own.

In her book Praying with Benedict, Katherine Howard wrote, “The cure for our insecurity is not the accumulation of material goods, but trust in God” (p.101).

The contemplative is always searching for the One who is invisible in what is visible. A contemplative lives in the simplicity of learning that God loans what we use to us, out of God’s abundance. We seek union with God because God is always generous in the revelation of God’s Self disclosure in Jesus the Christ. God sees us from the perspective of being loved, as God gives to us from the fullness of Who God is. God wants us to let go of all that possesses us, so that God is all we desire. The contemplative searches for God with purity of heart. A purity that comes from our essence, that is our eternal truth of who we are in relationship with God. It is in God that we lay the foundation of our true selves.

Abba Moses asked Abba Silvanus, “Can a man lay a new foundation every day?” The old man said, “If he works hard he can lay a new foundation every moment” (Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings, by Christine Valters Paintner, p.57).

Are you searching for union with God through the things in your life?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

If you feel led to buy me some coffee to help support this ministry, please scroll down to the bottom of the right sidebar and click on the Benedictine Coffee Mug. Thank you so much.

Reflection on Removing the Stone

Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” (See John 11:32-44).

Mary and Martha had a good reason for putting a stone at the entrance of Lazarus’ tomb. There was already a stench because his body was decaying. Jesus did not see the stone or the stench as an obstacle to what God could do; but, first the stone had to be removed. The entrance needed to be cleared so that the power of God could do something amazing.

So many of us have good reasons for putting up stones at the entrances of our hearts. We have experienced our hearts being hurt by others or by things we do to ourselves. Many of us have stones at the entrances of our hearts, because of events that are not of our own doing. The death of someone close to us. A disability. An addiction. A relationship that ended . Jesus can meet us in our hearts to do the work of healing and reconciliation, but, we need to be willing to take the stone away, and let God in.

Contemplative prayer is the work of the Holy Spirit as we let go of all of the obstacles we put in God’s way. Lectio Divina (The prayerful Reading of Scripture) is a way of letting the Holy Spirit help us move those stones that we use to keep God away. The whole of ourselves needs a lot of healing and reconciliation, as our souls need redeeming. The stench of everything that is just not right in our lives is something God wants to bring God’s compassion and mercy to. We have to let go, and we have to do it as we are ready. God will wait with us, and love us without exception of what we decide to do about the stones in front of our hearts. The mystery of contemplation is that God is always reaching out for us, and speaking through what is happening with us. “For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37 NRSV).

“Sit in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything ” (said St. Moses the Black).

“What is not possible for us by nature, let us ask the Lord to supply with the help of his grace.” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.18).

What is your response to Jesus’ request to take away the stone from the entrance to your heart?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

If you feel led to buy me some coffee to help support this ministry, please scroll down to the bottom of the right sidebar and click on the Benedictine Coffee Mug. Thank you so very much.